Tag Archives: Las Vegas

European Open Special Edition

3 Nov

Las Vegas is one of my favourite places in the world for poker; unlimited daily choice of tournament and cash game action, lush array of poker rooms, soft fields of recreational players and sometimes if you are lucky with your seat draw you get to rub shoulders with real poker superstars and battle versus some of the best players in the world;

And don’t get me started on entertainment, dining and shopping there as you would never see the end of this blog 🙂

Here I’ve listed just a few of many fantastic reasons why I was looking forward to going back to to Sin City for the second time this year 🙂

This time I was in for a real treat as Unibet Events team has put together a 5 star Vegas experience for it’s players and Ambassadors alike in celebration of the 10th season of the Open Series….

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I flew in 5 days prior the main event so I could aclimatise and most importantly have some fun with friends. Jet lag is always a killer; you keep on waking up at 4am and is always good to have a spare few days to deal with it.

11 of us including one cute baby were sharing a beautiful house off the strip. Marc Convey has done his research and found a property for us with the most stunning outdoor area where we ended up enjoying the sunshine in the lush surroundings, having diving competitions, pool parties and tasty BBQ’s -the latter orchestrated by Tambet who turns out to be not only uber talented photographer but a brilliant cook too.

The place had a massive outdoor Jacuzzi too which was a nice touch for the chilly evenings especially with the boys :). It really was so much fun hanging out with everyone and to be fair we had no good reason to leave the house at all apart from some grocery shopping and for us girls some outlet exploring ….. When I say exploring I mean a day out clothing & hand bag shopping 🙂

We also headed to the Downtown– one of the night’s a there were a few group members that were in Vegas for the first time and the attractions and entertainment on offer at the second most famous street in the Las Vegas – Freemont Street – could not be missed.

It is a pretty surreal experience standing there in the middle of the crowded street surrounded by constantly running light shows, live music and flamboyant street performers… it feels like being a part of one big open street party! Perfect for a Saturday night and Simon & Carol were making the most if it 🙂

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Freemont Street

The rest of the group were indoors learning all about Craps and practising the perfect throw whilst enjoying $1 cocktails 🙂

It was a great night out and I was looking forward to doing nothing next day before moving to our next and the main stop – the Wynn hotel.

This hotel is absolutely beautiful and the classiest venue in Vegas and Unibet couldn’t have picked a better place for it’s players to stay, play and enjoy themselves.

The things I love the most about The Wynn; it doesn’t have standard rooms, there are only suites, and they are massive! Basically the size of a one bedroom flat I used to live in back in London a while back 🙂 The layout of the hotel is pretty straight forward and it’s easy to navigate your way around without getting lost (story of my life:).

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There is an array of beautiful restaurants with the outdoor seating where you can enjoy the water show and their buffet which was complimentary for all Unibet players + staff is simply the best in Vegas!

Where else you can sample various cuisines from round the world under one roof accompanied by an endless pours (alcoholic of course) for 2hr for just an extra $19!?

We were based on the Encore side of the hotel and it was my first time visiting it’s outdoor pool there which was sick with a bar and gaming tables in the middle… they were playing great tunes all day long and serving great cocktails ….definitely yet another highlight of this venue.

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Beach Club Encore

On Thursday I jumped into my first game; $400, $50k GTD daily comp at the Wynn poker room. After cashing 3 of the on the trot in July, I was hoping for another deep run.

I had a fun starting table. My fellow Unibet Poker Ambassaor David Lappin was staring me down as soon as I sat at the table. I knew he was looking to try and bluff me soon 🙂

Not such luck for him this time as he went for the max value with his QQ v my KK and couldn’t improve. Unlucky David.

 

We analysed this pivotal hand in details with Dara on this Chip Race episode for those who would like to learn more about pre-flop shoving ranges when deep stacked.

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Ryan with Unibet Poker Ambassador Ian Simpson

I also got to meet a super talented American pro Ryan Laplante for the first time. Such a lovely guy and a fun table companion. Thanks for the restaurant tips Ryan and congrats on your 72nd place in the European Open Main Event!

Half-way though the field I got moved to a new table & got seated to a very charming & funny gentleman. He paid me probably the most original compliment in my poker career to date: “ You have the most beautiful hands” he said followed by “If I was 30 years younger I would have given you everything I have”……

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It was all going to plan & it looked like I was on my way for the 3rd cash till I ran into a dominating hand 10 away from the money. Sigh…

 

Oh well, at least it was a fun day and a decent warm up before the main event day 1a the following day I was heading back to the room with a smile on my face.

 

In the morning, I put on my “run good” t-shirt kindly arranged by the Unibet events team, had a lovely brunch at Jardin and was off to play the European Open full of excitement.

The poker room was buzzing with anticipation and it was great to see so many familiar faces and Unibet Open regulars. I managed to sneak a quick catch up with some of the female players before taking my seat and the “shuffle up & deal” announcement.

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With Nataly from Unibet Poker

I ended up playing for more than 12 hours that day and busting the last level of the night with literally only 10min to go before bagging up & sealing for day 2. The worst possible outcome and super tilt!

Unfortunately I got a profitable re-shove spot for my 20bb with AQ and got coolered when running into AK. Sometimes where is just nothing you can do…. #thejoysofpoker

The highlight of my day was having an poker legend Phil Laak seated next to me. I have to admit It was pretty surreal sharing a table with someone who I was used to only seeing and admiring on TV.

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For me poker is all about players like Phil, who regardless of their status and lifetime poker achievements ($3.6mil in winnings + WSOP bracelet) are still the most humble, cool, and friendly opponents at the table taking their time to mingle with others and have as much fun as possible whilst doing their job.

I also had one of the best UK poker talents – Simon Deadman, another British poker pro & coach –Matthew Hunt, my fellow Unibet Ambassador from Estonia – Ben, 2 times Unibet Open main event winner – Mateusz Moolhuizen and a tough online kid from Slovakia called Jan who satellited into the European Open Special Edition for €1 on Unibet Poker online and ended up finishing in 22nd place for $5,031!

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It was probably one of the most toughest starting tables in the room but I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and the challenge 🙂

Saturday was another day and I was feeling hopeful again. I had another shot at trying to make it through to day 2 of the main event.

After a tasty yet super filling breakfast at the award winning Wynn Buffet the jet lagged kicked in again and I was knackered. So I had a little nap before heading to the poker room.

It turned out that a siesta I had was a +EV decision as I immediately got moved to the feature table and sat next to the all-time leader in career online poker tournament earnings just over $14 mil  – Chris Moorman! I definitely needed my brain working on a full power there!

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There was also Swedish footballer Henrik Larsson smiling away and we got tangled in one of the first hands I played and I called off Henrik’s bluff.

It was a very entertaining table with lots of friendly banter at hand. And although sometimes I still feel nervous playing at the feature table it was certainly not one of those occasions. I was touching the shoulders with one of the best poker players in the world I somehow never felt more at ease.

I really enjoyed having Chris to my left; it was fascinating watching him play and learning more about him as a player and person.

He was very open, gregarious and very kind with his answers and time for the fans. A true poker ambassador and I look forward to reading his 2nd poker book that recently hit the shelves.

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I was chipping up nicely and enjoying the great atmosphere typically Unibet events bring to the poker rooms when another poker phenomenon – Andrew Lichtenberger aka “LuckyChewy” got seated to my immediate left.

We seemed to share a mutual passion for travelling with Andrew, hence we enjoyed the next hour or so reminiscing about various wonderful places we have visited and swapping tips for future adventures. It was a fun set up till it lasted and Andrew was a great neighbour at a table to have….that is till he knocked me out of the tournament in another standard spot….

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Andrew Lichtenberger

Regardless of not making day 2 and European Open  Special Edition main event falling short for me, it was one of the most enjoyable poker experienced I had! I mean, how often do you get to stay and play at a 5* hotel, enjoy unlimited free drinks at the tables and rub the shoulders and play against the elite of the world for a $1,100 buy -in?!

The next Unibet Open event will be in Bucharest at the end of November which I’m super excited about as it was the best poker trip of 2016 for me  (and yes It was better that WSOP!:). You can read all about my Romanian UO adventures here.

The next 3 days in Vegas went super quick for me. On Saturday we had a fun day out with the E-gamers and my co Unibet Poker Ambassador Espen behaving like a tourists for the day and exploring the best of Vegas; enjoying In-N-Out Burger for lunch followed by frozen daiquiris from “Fat Tuesdays” , posing with the Transformers outside Madame Tussaud’s wax museum and purchasing pearls hidden in the oysters from the “Pearl Factory”.

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Sunday – Was the darkest day in Vegas’ long history. As he evening was progressing we got the news of a shooting on the strip 😦 It was worrying and the hotel went into full lockdown.

I stayed in my room with my husband watching in horror as the full extent of the situation filtered in on the news and we fielded messages to re-assure family. It put everything else in life into context and my thoughts are with all those effected both now and as they were in the days following the shootings.

Monday was obviously a surreal atmosphere and we stayed around the heavily secure hotel to sort the Chip Race and recording some hand analysis for the Strategy corner with Dara & David.

I really do pinch myself sometimes as to how lucky I am   – I get to talk about something I love located in a suite of a 5 star hotel with the beautiful bird eye view of the Vegas strip with the best friends in Poker. Life can be fickle so I always try to enjoy it to the maximum.

I’m really very proud of Dara & David and the success they have achieved for the podcast; every episode is fascinating and original in its own way and includes the interviews with some biggest names in the poker industry, free strategy content and gossip and news of the current poker affairs presented by Ian Simpson.

 

If you are not a subscriber to this awesome podcast yet, here is the link to do so and thank me later 😉

Work out of the way and it being last night for some of us in Vegas we headed for some team dinner at the Wynn Buffet. We opted for the celebratory 2hour bottomless pours option and made the most of it 🙂

It was a great night out with friends and a lovely in muted ending to a fun trip. Well, financially it could have been better especially if I didn’t hit the cash games with Dara for the one last time before the end of the night. You can find all about my cash game poker moves in this Dara’s blog post

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Super well done to the Unibet Events team on putting up such an awesome and successful stop and congrats and smashing the $400k GTD with an impressive prize pool worth $665,866 in the end! Also a big thank you to Tambet & Lenka for sharing some of their great pics to be used for this post.

Huge numbers are being expected for Unibet Open in Bucharest next and I look forward to seeing you all there! Daiva x

 

 

 

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WSOP 2017 Main Event

12 Sep

A day before the Main Event –  After busting the Ladies Championship, I had a consolation glass of prosecco with Dara before heading back to the hotel for some chill time and food.

The plan was to sort out the money and get the buy-in for the Main Event out of the way that evening to avoid the queues for the next day.

It’s always nice to be heading to the tournament knowing that you have your starting table allocated and your seat waiting for you, especially when it starts at 11am 🙂

Once I had the ticket sorted, I spend the rest of the evening with my hubby hanging out at the T Mobile Arena watching UFC  213 before heading back for a relatively early night’s sleep.

I hoped to replicate the killer instinct I saw in the Octagon at UFC in the biggest tournament of year the next day…

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Day 1 Main Event – It was 9th of July- my birthday and I was about to play the biggest tournament of the year that day!

I had a wonderful morning; I received a beautiful bouquet of flowers from my sister as a birthday surprise and then had a coffee & cake (and gifts of course) served to me in bed. I had lots lovely messages to read and cards to open.

It was another sunny day in Vegas and I was feeling very happy 🙂

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Once I got to Rio Casino and was making my way to my starting table, I was taken aback by the sheer number of people in the corridors; there were thousands of them!  I don’t think I’ve seen so many players in one space before and it was exciting that the Main Event seemed more popular than ever this year.

 

Once I got to my starting table I was pleased to see I didn’t recognise anyone and there were a couple of players enjoying a beer already (It was 11am!)

50k starting stack and 2 hour levels meant I could take as much time as I needed to figure out the players before playing a hand. It was obvious rather quickly that apart from a couple of aggressive players on the table everyone else was playing pretty standard with a few who audibly announced that they were in Vegas “to give it a shot” & “run hot”… players you never mind having at a table in a $10k buy in tournament 🙂

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7,221 players were fighting for this beauty!

Not much happened in the first 2 levels. I played a handful of hands and increased my stack to 53k going into the first break.

I nipped over to check on my poker friend Deborah Worley Roberts who had worked her way to heads up in the WSOP Ladies event and was playing for the bracelet. It was super exciting seeing someone you know doing so well and railing them for the most prestigious title there is in poker.

As expected there was a huge & loud British rail which could be heard across the Amazon poker room.

The next couple of levels went pretty quickly. I played a few more hands but still probably the least on the table and regardless of having a tight/solid image I made extra chips when calling off a couple of bluffs.

One guy was even berating the other for bluffing me by telling him “She is a Unibet Poker pro, she’s wearing a patch” The other guy goes:  “So?! Lots of pretty girls wear a patch” 🙂 It was certainly useful to hear the 2nd player’s thought process & the player image he had formed in relation to me to which I adjusted to be profitable.

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I had 67k going into the dinner break and was looking forward to some tasty food & a catch up with my Unibet teammates.

Everywhere was super busy and there were massive queues outside all restaurants. Luckily for us we had a table sorted (courtesy of Dara’s lovely wife Mireille) in a Chinese restaurant at the Gold Coast Casino where we ended up having a lovely relaxed meal.

I was glad to hear that Alan Widmann, Marc Convey and Dara were all doing fine in the Main and were feeling positive and confident. Alan was especially very excited as it was his first WSOP ME and he had a great start, sitting on over 100k in chips already. He was feeling very generous too and kindly paid for our dinner. TY Alan!

I peaked at 80k but finished the day with a comfortable 67k chips and it was time to hit the bar and enjoy a few birthday cocktails with friends 🙂

Day off – I had a very sad and emotional day. I found out early in the morning that one of my uncles had passed away in a tragic accident a couple of days before and no one told me about it because it was my birthday and I was playing the main event. I spent most of the day in bed crying and just nipped out for some food before returning to my room.

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Day 2 Main Event – No doubt, it was one of the hardest days of poker for me ever. The previous day’s news was still on my mind and I found it hard to hold in the tears but I still had to focus, concentrate and play my A game.

I’d like to say a big thank you to all who were very supportive & caring and helped me get through the day with their kind words & gestures.

Poker wise it was not going to plan; I was seated in BB and lost 30% of my starting stack when playing my first hand. I defended A8ss and my turned straight got beat by the rivered house. I kept on bricking flops whilst my premium pairs got 3-outed post-flop.

I slipped down to 31k after the first level and was relieved there was a break around the corner. I definitely needed some fresh air, coffee and a cuddle. I needed to re-group!

After a good pep talk and some great advice (my friend told me to win it for my uncle and that’s what I tried to do) I was back to the table ready to crush!

The next couple of levels were a massive grind and not much fun at all; I was totally card dead and was running bad. I was very patient & disciplined though, I knew the right spot/hand will come along. I slipped down to 22bb before doubling with AA v AK just before the dinner break.

Mireille once again was in charge of dinner arrangements and we headed to her favourite restaurant in the Gold Coast and possibly Vegas! – TGI Friday’s 🙂

I was glad about the glass of wine waiting for me at the table but sad to hear my close friend Dara had busted the main 😦  He is a world class player who had an amazing WSOP run in 2015, coming 2nd in a bracelet event for $262k but this year he just couldn’t win a flip…

The rest of the Unibet Poker team were still going strong; I loved seeing my friends and my husband at the dinner breaks & spending time together, it was relaxing and a huge confidence boost.

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I headed back to the table ready for some action. The next couple of levels were all about re-steals. I had a decent English pro Mathew Frankland to my right who was opening very wide, so he was a perfect candidate I could exploit with my sub 20bb stack.

I grinded hard with junk to finish the day on 30k which was equivalent of 15bb and a dream coming back to day 3!

Day off – I had a perfect day off doing nothing poker related. Firstly, enjoying some tasty coffee & fresh bakery for breakfast followed by some yoga, meditation, tasty lunch at Jardin with Marc & John and shopping at Sephora 🙂 In the evening I went to the excellent show called “Absinth” which got recommended by friends and I thoroughly enjoyed.

 Day 3 – Main Event

Day 3 was definitely the most fun day of the Main for me. Although I came back with a short stack and could have easily busted early, I felt if I was due a good few levels and hoped they were coming now.

Everything was going my way from the very start; I had a friendly starting table, I had the best starting seat on the table (button) and position wise I had weak spots to my right & better players to my left. The cards were falling my way too; I was picking hands, hitting flops and holding with the best made hand v draws. I was also super focused and made good reads and subsequently correct folds/calls.

I went from 30k to 197k in the next 4 hours!

If you feel like finding out more about some interesting/key hands I played on day 3, I discuss a few of them in detail with Dara on The Chip Race Podcast

I was chipping up nicely and going into the dinner break I was sitting on around 60bb. My run good continued off the tables too. I found an iPhone 7 in the ladies bathroom and the Chinese lady I managed to get it back to kindly paid all of our meal without us knowing about it! I felt karma should now be on my side to drive me towards a win 🙂

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A quiet level for me and suddenly there were ~1500 players left and we were only 416 places from the money.  The atmosphere in the room was getting more electric and as this grew, so did the numbers of spectators and supporters on the rail.

Thanks to Dara, Marc, Ilana, Elena who were there for continuous support and most importantly my husband John who was on his feet for 12 hours with a constant smile and whom I know for a fact was more nervous than me approaching the bubble 🙂

With around 200 players to go, I got moved to a new table with a chippy to my left who was taking the full advantage of a slower pace & play approaching the bubble.

You could feel the tension in the room as everyone was constantly glancing at the clocks, stalling and smiling every time someone busted. The growing excitement in the room was palpable- it is something that is difficult to describe, but the feeling in the air just changes on a $15k bubble…

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Marc holding John’s beer 🙂

I think I only got involved in a couple of pots and was pretty card dead before we were hand for hand. It would be nice to have had a big stack around the bubble, but now quite a bit shorter it was all about playing perfect poker for the circumstances.

There were still over 100 of tables in the room, so dealers had to stand up every time they finished dealing a hand, which was something I’ve not seen being done anywhere else before.

It was funny seeing all the media crew of approximately 20 people + cameras moving along from one table to another where any all in’s were being called on the direct bubble.

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The play was stopped as soon as the bubble burst. It was the best atmosphere I have ever experienced in the poker room! Everyone felt that collective feeling of achievements after a solid, hard three days of intense concentration.

Once I bagged and tagged it was time for a quick drink with my friends and a cab ride home. I was knackered…

 

Day 4 – I was guaranteed a min cash of $15,000, but obviously my plan was to spin my 14bb up & make it through to day 5. One step at a time…

I had a fun trip to casino, my Uber driver was a rapper and I ended listening to his records and him singing me & wishing me well 🙂 And when I learnt that my starting table was located next to the feature table I hoped it was a sign of a long day ahead.

My day unfortunately was very short instead. After just an orbit I picked up pockets 10s which I ran into KK for an exit for $17k in 952nd out of 7,221 and the biggest total since 2010.

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I was pleased that I achieved the absolute maximum in the tournament and was destined to bust in this spot, even deeper stacked with the pre-flop action. I’ll be back next year better for more experience in this tournament and hoping to go much deeper.

After grabbing some required sustenance which was preparation for the 2 hour queue to cash-in I was ready to leave Vegas.

We collected our hire car- it was great it was a convertible Mustang, not so great it was bright orange! The next two weeks we planned a road trip, starting with our friends in LA and working our way up to Lake Tahoe. Not a bad consolation for busting the Main especially after a successful and profitable WSOP.

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Anyhow, I wouldn’t need to wait long to return to Vegas, I’ll be back there at the end of September for the European Open Special Edition with Unibet. I’m excited about being back to stay at my favourite hotel the Wynn, and playing a number of games again in the gambling capital of the world!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

WSOP 2017 Adventures (part 1)

1 Aug

I’m sat in a bar in San Jose watching Scott Blumstein catch a 2 on the river and win the WSOP Main Event for $8,150,000 and officially closing the proceedings at the Rio for 2017. Like pretty much every poker player around the world, you imagine this moment with you as the main protagonist, but accept that this year wasn’t your year to win the main.

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Scott Blumstein – WSOP Main Event 2017 Winner

Let’s jump back to late June though, when I arrived in Vegas with a schedule and a dream…

After one year, it was great to be back in Vegas with a whole host of games before me. The plan was to play 2 bracelet events (WSOP Ladies & the ME) and lots of smaller tournaments at various casinos.

I would be here for the next 18 days or so and couldn’t wait to get to the tables.

I’ve stayed at a ton of different places in Vegas over the years, mainly for pleasure and each have their own benefits vs. cost and convenience.

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The Wynn 

After leaving it later than I planned and weighing up options I booked any initial 10 days at the Wynn at a super good rate. I’d worry about the week after that further down the line.

It was a good choice, the Wynn was the nicest place I’ve stayed on the strip; it has a measured balance of class, never being too busy and good service. Also the standard rooms are very spacious, beautifully decorated and very quiet, which is important when getting good nights sleep between the poker sessions.

 

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With Dara & Traian at a beautiful buffet room @Wynn 

But most importantly it had the Wynn Summer Classic running with some great structured games and decent fields you love to play against.

As always I spent my first couple of days sleeping off Jetlag ( I hate playing and being tired) and catching up with friends already there.

After a couple of fun lunches and dinners with Unibet team I ended up (against my better judgement) taking a helicopter ride across the strip with my friend Dara who had this included in a package he had won playing online and kindly invited me to join him.

I’m not great with heights, but a flight across the strip is a fascinating overview of all that Vegas is famous for and definitely an experience to recommend, even if I was glad to get my feet back on the ground.

Anyhow, onto poker and my initial few games. With the Wynn catering to my penchant to getting up late and then jumping into well structured games- it made sense to start there.

My first game was a $600 $250k GTD Wynn Summer Classic event with over 900 runners. I was comfortable with my starting table -also finally I was running better than the proceeding months leading up to Vegas. Like all players you play your way through these patches knowing that if you keep doing things right, things will fall into place a little more over time.

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Happy face after first cash of the trip 🙂

I won a couple of flips and had a full double up with Q10ss when flopping trips v AA.

I comfortably made day 2 with a decent stack and was eyeing the payouts on my return; there was over $80k for first place!

Unfortunately day 2 didn’t go to plan and I bust in a cooler spot when running my sub 20bb stack into QQ for a min cash. Nevertheless I was feeling very positive and happy about a great start to the trip and I was looking forward to the next game.

The next day I was back downstairs in the Wynn for the tasty buffet with Marc & Dara and then we decided to head to Nataly’s room for a friendly poker game 🙂

 

It was a fun day off before another session at theWynn. This time $400, $50k GTD one day event where Marc Convey & I both made it to the money. We had a great time playing at the Wynn poker room; the venue is spacious, clean and modern and it’s always great atmosphere there.  They provide prompt and efficient table service including drinks such as hot chocolate, smoothies and Fiji water and they have very competent TD’s.

After locking the second cash of the trip, It was time for some late night dinner with friends and some rest. Next day I played another game at the Wynn and grinded may way to 16th place & another cash. I was in the zone and warming up for the WSOP events 🙂

After my husband John arrived Sunday we enjoyed dinner with Kenny Halleart, Nataly & Marc at one of my favorite restaurants in Las Vegas –  LAVO. It was good catching up with Kenny and hearing all about his intense WSOP schedule & a very successful summer so far over tasty Italian food & wine. Well done to Kenny who ended up having another impressive run in the Main Event finishing 64th/7221 for over $100k.

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Dinner at LAVO

Monday it was time for a change of scenery and over to Planet Hollywood for the $250k guaranteed which was probably going to end up more like $500k and with a field you really want to play against. I started pretty well , but then ended up card dead and losing two flips to bust early in the evening. It was frustrating, but also you don’t mind running not so well in the smaller tournaments, especially when you have fun playing and meeting interesting people & making new friends 🙂

Tuesday it was back for another bullet at Planet Hollywood to no avail and a trip to Nobu with John and Dara + his lovely wife Mireille to drink cocktails and have a fun evening of quality sushi and chat. It was 4th of July (Independance Day in the US) and although it was crazy busy on the strip we managed to get a sneaky view of some beautiful fireworks for a perfect ending to a fun night.

Next morning I was off to play the Helix Ladies event. They had for reasons that only they could explain decided to hold it at Harrah’s which has a massive 7 poker tables in the room.

When you have 50 alternates, you realise you are wasting your time and hopefully the Helix ladies game will have a more suitable location for 2018, as myself and friends would loved to have played, but ultimately couldn’t.

Jumping into another game at Planet Hollywood with my lovely friends Charlie & Natalia took care of the rest of the day. I really enjoyed hanging out with the girls & it’s a shame we didn’t get much luck in this game and bust late on short of the money.  I headed back to the Wynn for some sleep prior to the upcoming Ladies WSOP event, one of my favourites of the year…..TBC

Road trip to Las Vegas

9 Nov

If you’ve been following me on Twitter you would probably guess traveling is one of my favorite hobbies.

So after a few short breaks it was time for a longer trip and sneaking in Las Vegas!

A quick brainstorm over a glass of wine with my sister & friends and my big trip for 2011 settled upon  St. Lucia – San Francisco- Yosemite National Park and ending with a week in Vegas. Needless to say I was especially excited about the final part:)!

I haven’t been to any of the Caribbean islands before, so I was looking forward to exploring St Lucia’s tropical surroundings as well as tasting its Caribbean cuisine.

St Lucia

The 6 hour flight to a tropical paradise didn’t really feel too long or too tiring, especially once we were greeted by the sunshine and a 37C gust of heat stepping off the plane.

Apart from sunbathing & snorkeling in the Caribbean sea, we got on a boat trip one of the days discovering the hidden gems of the island.

We had a fantastic day, not only visiting a few fishing villages and being surrounded by breathtaking coastal views but also sampling a mud bath in the dead volcano area, bathing in the Waterfalls and having a meal overlooking the famous pitons.

Next stop was San Francisco, where we spend a couple of day wandering around the city sightseeing & enjoying some of the best Chinese cuisine outside China in San Francisco’s world famous Chinatown for dinner.

We hired a car and drove across the Golden Gate Bridge towards Napa Valley (wine producing region) and stopped at one of the prettiest little villages I have ever seen- called Yountville located right in the heart of the wine fields for lunch.

It was a beautiful location, with stunning French style buildings & gardens and lots of roses everywhere. We were spoilt for choice with a number of world class restaurants there, including The French Laundry (needless to say we couldn’t get a table).

We ended up having a gorgeous meal outside in the garden of one of the restaurants, accompanied by locally produced wine, which I loved so much, I even had to get a bottle to take away myself:)

After a few hours of driving towards Yosemite we decided to have a break and stay overnight at one of the random motels – just like in the movies:) We enjoyed having dinner at the traditional American Diner and then having a game of pool with the locals at a local cowboy themed Saloon before heading to bed.  A packed day!

Yosemite Park

Yosemite National Park

The next day was Yosemite and it surpassed my expectations.

Seriously, only a few places in the world rival Yosemite’s  natural beauty where forests teem with wildlife and spectacular waterfalls take the breath away.

The highest point we were driving at was 9,000 feet, but the scariest part was that the roads were not only super high but very windy too and the signs “mind the bears” didn’t help either…

I just was happy I didn’t need to drive and tried to keep everyone entertained by singing along  to tunes on the radio. It was a fun road trip although we didn’t find any bears in Yosemite.

The next day after another motel stop in the ominously named Lone Pine we set out to drive through Death Valley to Las Vegas. You could feel the searing desert heat, but the air-con was more than a match.

Quite a few hours later we were greeted by the famous Las Vegas strip- it was good to be back!

The plan for a week in the sin city was not to play as much poker as I would normally do, but be in charge of showing around my sister instead, as it was her first time on the strip.

We were pretty lucky with the weather at this time of the year and it was nice being able to sunbathe & relax by the pool on a daily basis whilst sipping a drink and not being surrounded by the loud crowds you get at peak season.

Las Vegas Strip

Las Vegas

After a few days settling into our hotel, getting on Vegas timing and after doing a bit of touristy sightseeing, we finally were ready for some poker action.

As my sister wanted to play, I kept the stakes reasonably small and we decided to play $125 re-entry tourney at the Aria, which attracted around 60 buy-ins and around 55 runners on a midweek evening.

I haven’t played in this poker room before, so was looking forward to checking out the quality of games there and if they were as soft as some other games I’d played previously at this level in Vegas.

I found the game pretty straightforward, and was never put in a tough spot where I had to make a difficult decision for my tournament life.

I adopted a tight aggressive strategy for this game as there were lots of inexperienced poker players on my table who were either playing too tight or too loose.

I didn’t make many hands or got many premium starting hands, so was playing the players instead and was trying to pick up uncontested pots and I managed to get very lucky once too which always helps:

With 25 or so players left my tournament life was at risk for the first time when re-shoving all in on a K 10,10 rainbow flop against a super aggressive/loose player on my left. Of course he had a 10 this time (9,10), but I managed to bink a K on the river with my KJ to sweep the pot:)

From there I continued slowly chipping up without any showdowns and cards and although I had a pretty aggressive table image, I didn’t get too many people playing back at me.

I made the final table in ok shape and was 4th in chips, however with 30 minute levels and the average stack at around 20bb the action at the table was fast and furious.

We played for another hour or so, losing a few players (and some of my chips!) and then my tournament came to an end too. We were 5 handed and it was folded round to the chip leader on the table who was the SB.

He raised it up x 3 (which was his standard raise size) and I looked down at my hand to find AJ off-suit. It was no brainer with 14bb stack and I quickly re-shoved all in. He snap called with Aces! Game over.

Aria poker room

The Poker Room at Aria

Although I cashed in this game, I am not sure I really enjoyed it. I thought the venue was lacking a good ambience and the players seemed not so friendly compared to the other poker rooms I played at. Or maybe it was just simply bad timing….

I am very proud of my sister, she seems to be picking up poker very well and managed to finished in 11th. Not a bad result for her first live tourney!

Next up for us was a nice dinner at the Bellagio restaurant overlooking the fountains the next day and a quick browse at the Fashion Show Mall. Is there any better way to spend your winnings- well at least if you are a girl anyhow.

Poker wise, we managed to fit in another game in our busy “leisure” schedule and played another $125 freeze-out tourney at the Orleans poker room a couple of days later.

Apparently it is one of the best attended games in Vegas on a Friday night, and attracts between 250-300 runners.

Once we got there, the venue was buzzing; there were quite a few cash games running and a long but lively queue at the registration desk for the tourney. Everyone seemed happy & chatty, it was a very different atmosphere to the Aria poker room.

I quickly settled in and had some good value co-players at my starting table. The level of poker was pretty average; from the very first level of the night till when I was knocked out there was lots of limping & calling raises with any 2 cards and it seemed that majority of players, including regulars in this game were there for the  fun factor.

I enjoyed the banter and a couple of glasses of wine but when down to 50/250 it was exit time.

I ended going out in style too, when raising with AK x4 (for a reason) and still getting called by BB, who had 5,7 off-suit and hit a set on the king high flop.

It was a fun game, shame about the exit, and will be back there next time for some value:)

That was pretty much the end of my trip, and back in the UK I’ve got the Palm Beach Big Game next up. I can’t help but think the standard may be somewhat higher there!!!

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